Early Work: Eye on the Sky

I received my first 35mm camera in 1980 or 1981. It was a Pentax ME Super with three lenses, I believe they were 28mm, 50mm, and a 135mm telephoto. I took it with me all the time as I explored the landscape in and around the country valley where we lived.

At this point I started to act more like a photographer and I can see that in some of the compositions. I had a copy of The Photographer’s Handbook, by John Hedgecoe. I didn’t read all about the mechanical aspects of how a camera works, I was more interested in the pictures…go figure. I didn’t try to copy the photos in the book but I took the ideas with me as I explored my surroundings.

I managed to lose that camera kit during a family trip to New Hampshire. We got into the car after visiting a lake and when we got back to the rental chalet, there was no camera in the car. It was replaced with Pentax K1000 and a 50mm lens, which I still have today.

I shot Kodak color print film most of the time and only a roll or two of black and white. I still have most of my 35mm negatives, going back to that first camera. In recent years I bought a 35mm film scanner and was eager to run some of those old strips through it. The years have taken their toll on the materials but many of the earliest exposures can be fuzzy due to the inexpensive zoom lens I had with the K1000. Some are just bad photos, since I didn’t really know what I was doing!

I’ve scanned and cleaned up some examples from that first year with 35mm. The subject matter is in the sky but they also show the kind of rural surroundings that I still enjoy today.

The negatives have led a rough life, and it shows!


The morning sun, shot behind our house on a foggy, frosty morning.


The sun becomes a lamp in a neighbor’s yard.


Classic Eastern countryside, sunset viewed from the top of the hill over our valley.


Same group of trees, looks like a shower had passed. I used to dig for old bottles in the woods off to the right.


Sunset colors viewed from our back yard.


A member of the Harkins family drives a tractor back to the barn at sunset. The Harkins family raised dairy cattle and corn in the fields to the west of our valley.


The Harkins farm at sunset. The Harkins family must have settled this part of the county, their name was on many mailboxes.


Composition at work, framing the moon through the trees next to our house.


I think I was trying to capture the diffused light on the tree trunks. Taken from the road in front of our house.


A classic Harvest Moon view, probably inspired by something I had seen somewhere. I studied photographs wherever I found them.


A full moon coming over the trees next to our yard.

As you can see, I was starting to think about what I could do with the elements in a landscape, as opposed to just shooting the scene as a snapshot. I lived at this location for two years and a progression shows in the work from the second year. I was off and running with film and once I got my driver’s license, my reach began to extend beyond the valley or wherever I had ridden my bicycle. I didn’t go looking for more landscapes though, I started searching for vintage cars to photograph, wherever they were hiding. I will post some of those photos at a later date since I am eager to share more current work.

In December of 1982 I joined the U.S. Air Force and during that career, I was able to visit and photograph many places in the U.S. and also parts of Japan. I learned by trial-and-error, which can get expensive at one-hour photo labs. Sometimes a dumb mistake, like an incorrect aperture setting, would affect a whole roll of film. I must not have been paying attention to the light meter.

In these early days I was not striving for perfection; I was just enjoying the hobby and yes, the first part shows! I was having fun and if you’re not having fun, why keep doing it? To put this in to perspective, the photography was added to something I already enjoyed, getting out into the countryside and exploring.

 That feeling still carries me today, as I travel the back roads of the Inland Northwest.


~ by mikespixels on January 6, 2013.

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